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JUNGEE: THE MAN WHO STARTED THE BIGGEST BONFIRE IN ARABIAN SEA

The exploits of the Indian Navy during the 1971 India-Pakistan War are ingrained not only in the collective memory of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also the world at large. The missile attacks on the ships and at Karachi harbour and the subsequent burning of its oil fields for almost a week, were described as ‘the biggest bonfire in the Arabian Sea’.

CMDE Srikant Kesnur & LT CDR Divyajot

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The crew of INS Nirghat.

Today, 3 December 2020, is when the Western Naval Command celebrates the Killers Nite. The Killers are a special breed of people posted on small powerful ships. Readers of this paper may recollect an article on the Killers in which I brought out the yeoman service rendered by these spirited boys. They have a great legacy to live up to and one they celebrate every year as the Killers Nite. This is the day they remember and commemorate the 1971 war when the daring missile boats attack on 4 and 8 December, codenamed Op Trident and Op Python respectively, marked a decisive turn in the battle at sea. And the Killer saga was born.

Lt Cdr I.J. Sharma receiving the Vir Chakra from then President of India V.V. Giri

While 4 December has since been celebrated as Navy day with many official functions and receptions, the Killers Nite held on a suitable day in the Navy week is a more cosy and intimate affair where the personnel of the missile boat squadron get together. There is a rousing entertainment programme, a light and sound show depicting the attacks, the launch of Killers journal “First Strike” and felicitation of those officers and sailors who took part in the war. Every Killers Nite is also a poignant memory of the past as Father Time ticks, drawing many in its wake and leaving us with fewer stalwarts in the succeeding years. Thus, it is important to cherish our association and nourish those bonds as long as possible.

Cmde I.J. Sharma at his home in Mumbai post retirement
Cmde I.J. Sharma at his home in Mumbai post retirement

This year owing to the Covid pandemic, Killers Nite is being conducted in a scaled down manner, within the squadron and with no outside guests. Today, I am reminded of last year’s Killers Nite where I had the great privilege of meeting a 1971 war hero Commodore Inderjit Sharma (IJ from hereon). To my utter delight, I came to be seated next to him and the very elegant Rekha Sharma at the dinner table. As a navy historian, I was aware that IJ was the winner of Vir Chakra and, as the Commanding Officer of INS Nirghat, had fired the opening shots of the war. Yet it was like a fanboy moment when I got to meet and interact with him for long and ask him many aspects of the strike. I was humbled to find a grounded, simple man, speaking in a matter of fact manner. As he will not be there for the Killers Nite this year, here is a salute to icons like IJ and his compatriots who gave the Indian Navy its finest hour.

Approach and return chart of Op Trident
Approach and return chart of Op Trident

Op Trident and Op Python have been deeply etched in the memories of the nation and commemorated for five decades now. The exploits of the Indian Navy during the 1971 India-Pakistan War are ingrained not only in the collective memory of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also the world at large. The missile attacks on the ships and at Karachi harbour and the subsequent burning of its oil fields for almost a week, was described as the biggest bonfire in the Arabian Sea, by then CNS, Admiral S.M. Nanda, in his autobiography, The Man Who Bombed Karachi.

Lt I.J. Sharma receiving the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal from then President of India Zakir Hussain
Lt I.J. Sharma receiving the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal from then President of India Zakir Hussain

While it was the vision of Admiral SM Nanda, coupled with meticulous planning at the Directorate of Naval Operations and the Western Naval Command that went a long way in ensuring victory, the field work and execution was the onerous responsibility of the missile boat squadron. Due credit needs to be given to the planners for their foresight, but the hosannas should be for the men behind the machines who plunged into hostile territory sans fear or reluctance. The attacks with the missile boats were novel; the young Indian Navy had little or no experience in using the boats to storm an enemy’s port – not just any port, but it’s citadel—Karachi. Do picture these bold men on the high seas in a tiny vessel, an enemy at the vanguard and beyond them, oblivion. The grit, the nerve, the meticulous planning that would have gone into the successful execution of what many thought of as ‘mission impossible’, leaves one with goosebumps.

Lt I.J. Sharma and his wife, Rekha Sharma, sitting with then President of India Zakir Hussain after the Investiture Ceremony
Lt I.J. Sharma and his wife, Rekha Sharma, sitting with then President of India Zakir Hussain after the Investiture Ceremony

The scale of devastation caused by the missile boats was unexpected, considered hitherto implausible and far reaching. History records that after the attack on 4 December Pakistan Navy (PN) withdrew ships inside harbour and after the 8th, ordered them to de-ammunition. Thus, effectively, the maritime war on the western front was over within five days of commencement of the hostilities. In fact, the spectre of missile attacks so much haunted PN that false alarms on 5th Dec resulted in abandonment of search for survivors and on 6 December resulted in PNS Zulfikar being strafed by its own Air Force.

Fifty years after the war, the technicalities may have become blurry in our consciousness but legends about the heroics remain engraved forever. And IJ was one such hero in the frontlines. Around mid-November, 1971, IN Ships Vidyut and Nirghat had been forward deployed at Okha, along with INS Tir. On the orders of Cdr Mahendra Pratap, CO Tir, the missile boats would patrol the harbour in search of spurious radar echoes, that would be common occurrence during winters. Whilst their search would turn out to be futile, the patrols served as good night training to sail in restricted waters under strong tidal conditions.

Then Lt Cdr I.J. Sharma, CO, INS Nirghat, recalls in Cmde Vijay Jerath’s book, 25 Missile Boat Squadron, “All of nature, the world and indeed our nation including myself, seemed to be in a state of blissful tranquillity and peace—it was the sunset of 3 December 1971. Yet, the envelope ensconced in the pocket of my battle jacket marked ‘TOP SECRET’ shattered this pseudo sense of security. This envelope spelt out the fate of many an adversary at the hands of this small but formidable missile boat and the thirty odd men under my Command. In my pocket were the orders for Operation Trident, the first ever Naval Operation in the Indian Ocean—in modern times; the first ever attack on the citadel and might of the enemy—Karachi. My thoughts shifted to my men. How would they take it—I wondered? The time had come to justify our existence in the armed forces. Would we do justice to the confidence reposed in us by our Navy and our nation?”

In retrospect, we can say they did full justice to the confidence reposed in them, as they sailed stealthily into what many would describe as a suicidal operation, given the proximity to the enemy’s den. They could have been bombed, once they were detected, from air, land as well as water. Yet, they dared and INS Nirghat fired two SS-N-2-Styx missiles at the first detected target—PNS Khaibar, a battle class destroyer, almost thrice its own size. To be hit and sunk by a missile boat was a rude awakening for Pakistan. In fact, their initial reaction was of being hit by air attacks as missile boat attacks were completely unexpected.

Some authors and historians see the Karachi attacks as a more than fitting revenge for Pakistan’s raid on Dwarka during the 1965 War, of which PNS Khaibar had been a part. While that endeavour did not amount to much except destroy some civilian buildings and kill a cow, the Indian Navy had been unfairly targeted by some citizens and media who were not aware that the Government of the day had constrained the Indian Navy from operating north of Porbandar. However, Senior Navy officers of that time were determined that should another opportunity arise, the Indian Navy would take the offensive and storm the enemy at her gates. Thus, when Khaibar was the first vessel to be sunk in 1971, it seemed like poetic justice. As Maj Gen Ian Cardozo (Retd), in his book ‘The Sinking of INS Khukri’ wrote “Dwarka, I think, was suitably avenged”.

To return to our protagonist, after carrying out thorough checks of Nirghat’s readiness for the attack, I.J. Sharma, had a passing thought, as recalled in the book, 25 Missile Boat Squadron, “My thoughts too diverted to Bombay and my family. We were going on a mission, which some classified as suicidal. Will I see them again? But this was not the time to indulge in negative thoughts. Without cluttering our minds, the time was to execute plans for which we had trained ourselves for many months. With that, I made my way back to the Bridge. Having received the report that the ship was ready in all respects to proceed to sea and for action, I waited for the clock to strike the exact time to sail and ordered the engines to be started.”

The steely resolve of the men onboard the missile boat coupled with the ingenuity of the planners finally bore fruit. Nirghat drew first blood during the 1971 War, setting the stage for the other missile boats of the Killer Squadron and subsequently for Op Python in the days to come. This decapitation on Western Front gave the necessary fillip required to create a blockade between West and East Pakistan. And that is a story known to many. But what about the man himself? Speaking to him last year, all I could elicit from the sprightly 84 years ‘young man’ were few stray comments here and there interspersed with questions about the navy of today. One memorable line was his cryptic remark “I hail from present day Pakistan, my ancestral village was near Lyallpur, I have grown up in Tandlianwala. I have often wanted to visit my birthplace. But I wonder if Pakistan would give me the visa if they knew I was the first one to start the naval war.”

To know more about him then we have to turn elsewhere. To a recent biography by his daughter Priya Sharma Shaikh called Jungee: A Warrior’s Journey. It is a finely crafted, detailed and affectionate look at her father’s life. And it is a remarkable narrative. About overcoming penury and adversity. About assimilating the Navy’s cosmopolitan culture while staying rooted to tradition. About his tender relationship with his wife Rekha. About fighting norms of patriarchy and orthodoxy while dealing with his own devils. But, above all, it is a fascinating story of the transformation of a small village boy into an extraordinary leader and warrior.

IJ joined Navy as a sailor in 1954 and by the dint of his hard work and determination qualified to be an officer, getting commissioned in September 1960. His contemporaries were the 16th course NDA which has produced distinguished officers like Adm Sushil Kumar, VAdm Avnish Tandon, VAdm Verghese Koithara, RAdm Raja Menon and RAdm SK Das among others. Das says of him “To me personally IJ is sheer warmth as a friend, a source of joy and inspiration and an example to emulate”.

IJ proved his mettle early on as Commanding Officer of INS Sharda, a small vessel meant for patrolling and curbing smuggling in the Palk Strait. The magnificent performance of IJ and his men during the super cyclone that hit Dhanushkodi in December 1964 earned them national acclaim. IJ acted on his own initiative when communication with naval authorities in Chennai (then Madras), broke down, navigated his ships through hazardous waters, ferried people continuously through stormy seas and rescued more than 3,000 people among the fishing community and others who had been struck by the cyclone. For his leadership and service, IJ was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) during the Republic Day honours in 1966 making him, possibly, the youngest recipient of the award, at less than 30 years.

Specialisation in Gunnery and selection for the prestigious command of INS Nirghat a few years later seemed like natural succession. Thus, it seemed destined when on the evening of 3 December, Cdr Khambatta, the Resident Naval officer in Okha handed over an envelope and told him “You should be proud to be part of independent India’s first offensive naval operation, the first ever attack on the fortress of the enemy’s strength—Karachi. This envelope spells death or glory for your men and you”.

That it was not death but glory alone, that Nirghat was the splendid opening act of a daring attack by the Indian Navy is now matter of history. The consequent award of Vir Chakra to IJ seemed a matter of course. The small ship of 30 people was awarded another Vir Chakra for the sailor who readied the missiles MN Singhal (Master Chief Electrical Artificer Power) and three ‘Mention in Despatches’. However, there is no doubt that the entire crew lived up to the ship’s motto ‘Dushmano Ka Nishchit Ghat, Nirghat Nirghat Nirghat’, which incidentally was carried forward by the next incarnation of Nirghat as well.

IJ carried on his distinguished service in various assignments before retiring prematurely as a Commodore in 1986. His sterling career was also embellished by his reputation as a good singer, as a yachtsman and as the leader of the Navy’s marching contingent on Republic Day 1975. The last development must have been particularly sweet considering that he was marked for special drill training when he joined the Navy. He continued his love for sea by doing almost a decade’s stint with Mazagon Docks Limited in shipbuilding and then in the private maritime sector before finally calling it a day.

IJ’s story is extraordinary for several reasons and at several levels. A boy whose ‘family was mercilessly driven out during partition coming back to decimate the pride of PN’ is very poetic but there are other—prosaic—reasons too. First, it is because we actually have this hero amidst us in flesh and blood, a real hero not the synthetic ones that our dream factories manufacture. Second, it is the story of indomitable determination of a person who was not fortune’s favoured child but took reverses in stride and stayed resolute at every step. Third, and most importantly, IJ represents the finest aspects of the Navy’s ecosystem—that it could recognise talent and groom him for leadership. A perfect example of this is that IJ, as a sailor on INS Mysore was the coxswain of the Captain (S.M. Nanda), who encouraged him to study and aim to become an officer. The fact that IJ, as an officer, many years later, played the opening act in Nanda’s grand design is testimony of destiny’s great hand.

In the early years of their marriage IJ was called ‘Jungee’ by his wife Rekha due to his combative, uncompromising, pugnacious nature. It was the same quality that stood Jungee in good stead when opportunity to make history presented itself. This is best seen in the small rousing speech he gave his men just few hours before the attack when he said “The Navy has trained us over the past two years and each of us has worked very hard to master our craft for this very moment. This operation’s success is in our hands, so when we fight let us fight with acuity, determination and courage”. It is precisely these attributes that defined Jungee.

Cmde Srikant Kesnur and Lt Cdr Divyajot are serving naval officers associated with the Naval History Project. While the article has been written as a first person account of the former it owes much to the research assistance of the latter. Views expressed are personal.

The photo credits are as follows: For the chart – Naval History Division, For others – Priya Sharma Shaikh

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Defence

INDIAN‌ ‌ARMY‌ ‌HANDS‌ ‌OVER‌ ‌MEDICAL‌ ‌EQUIPMENT‌ ‌TO‌ ‌NEPALI‌ ‌ARMY‌ ‌

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: As part of its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, medical equipment and supplies worth Nepali Rupees 28.80 crore provided by the Indian Army were handed over to the Nepali Army on Friday. In a ceremony at Nepali Army Headquarters, Tundikhel today, the medical equipment was handed over by Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra to General Purna Chandra Thapa, Chief of the Nepali Army. The ambassador reaffirmed India’s support to Nepali Army in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and lauded its contribution in this respect.

The medical equipment, including Ventilators, Ambulances, ICU beds, PPE Kits, PCR test Kits etc was delivered to Kathmandu on 10 June 2021. The Indian Army has been assisting the Nepali

Army to fight Covid-19 through various kinds of assistance since last year, including 1 Lakh doses of Covishield vaccines which were provided in March 2021.

The latest assistance is another testament to the close cooperation between the two armies and the two countries, particularly in times of need.

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Defence Minister inaugurates BRO centres

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh dedicated to the nation two Centres of Excellence established by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at Seema Sadak Bhawan in New Delhi on Friday. These Centres have been established to achieve excellence in road safety as well as foster growth in construction of roads, bridges, air fields and tunnels. The Centre of Excellence for Road Safety & Awareness (CoERSA) aims to create awareness about road safety through analysis sharing of road accidents and suggesting methods to save precious lives. The Centre of Excellence for Roads, Bridges, Air Fields and Tunnels (CoERBAT) focuses on institutionalising the knowledge gained over the years in development of almost 60,000 kilometres of roads, 56,000 metres of bridges, 19 airfields and four tunnels in the eastern and north-western part of the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh appreciated the efforts of BRO in establishing the Centres of Excellence, expressing confidence that they will play a pivotal role in saving precious lives. Terming road accidents as a silent pandemic that claims approx. 1.5 lakh lives every year, the Raksha Mantri stated that the Government has taken a number of initiatives such as National Road Safety Policy, Motor Vehicle Act 2020 and identification of black spots on national highways to tackle the problem and the setting up of these Centres is another step in that direction. The Raksha Mantri lauded the crucial role played by BRO in the progress of the nation since its inception by building roads, tunnels and other infrastructure in remote areas. He praised the efforts of BRO for working tirelessly in tough weather conditions to increase connectivity in border areas, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Describing connectivity as an essential component of a nation’s progress, he said BRO is catering to the needs of the Armed Forces as well as working towards the socio-economic development of the border areas. He made special mention of the recent achievements of BRO, including state-of-the-art construction of ‘Atal Tunnel, Rohtang’, Kailash Mansarovar Road and Zojila pass. He also appreciated BRO for raising awareness about road safety through innovative slogans and signboards. Rajnath Singh also listed out various measures taken by the Government for the development of BRO. These include increase in the budget of BRO, approval of special high-altitude clothing for the personnel as well as cadre review to boost the morale of the organisation. He assured BRO of continued support of Ministry of Defence, saying that the Government remains committed to the progress of the far-flung areas of the country. He also remembered the BRO personnel who laid down their lives in the service of the nation.

During the event, the Raksha Mantri also launched four software developed to optimise the work efficiency of BRO personnel, their HR management, recruitment management, enrolment and works management. The BRO has created the software to reduce paperwork, with focus on minimising the carbon footprint. Rajnath Singh termed the development of the software as a great example of ‘Self-reliant India’ and ‘Digital India’ campaigns. He stated that the software will further improve the efficiency of the organisation, modernise it and save time. The first ever Solo Woman Motorcycle Expedition by Ms Kanchan Ugursandi to Umling La Pass, Ladakh and back was also flagged off on the occasion. The Raksha Mantri extended his best wishes to Ms Kanchan Ugursandi and expressed confidence that she will come out with flying colours and complete the task by setting new records.

Earlier, DG Border Roads Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry briefed Rajnath Singh on the initiatives and achievements of BRO in recent years. He informed the Raksha Mantri about the ongoing and future projects, with focus on AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also informed Raksha Mantri on the awareness campaigns being carried out by BRO related to COVID-19 and Azadi ka Amrut Mahotsav in far-flung areas. The DG Border Roads said BRO remains committed towards serving the nation and would bring all necessary changes to enhance the efficiency of the organisation. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.

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A LOOK AT DEFENCE MINISTRY’S 20 REFORMS IN 2020

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh released an e-booklet titled ’20 Reforms in 2020’, highlighting the major reforms undertaken by Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2020, in New Delhi earlier this week. The compilation provides a brief overview of defence reforms undertaken in the year 2020 by MoD to bring about greater cohesion and modernisation of the Armed Forces through policy changes, innovation and digital transformation. Reforms also focused on the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; increased collaboration with the industry to boost defence exports; measures to accelerate defence acquisitions with greater transparency; digital transformation; strengthening of border infrastructure; increased participation of women in Armed Forces; transformation in R&D to boost innovation; expansion of NCC to remote locations and aid extended to the civil administration in fight against Covid-19. Raksha Rajya Mantri Shripad Y Naik, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary (Ex-Servicemen Welfare) Mr. Ravikant, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr G Satheesh Reddy and Financial Advisor (Defence Services) Mr. Sanjiv Mittal were present on the occasion.

Addressing the gathering, Rajnath Singh termed the E-booklet as an important document on the bright future of the defence sector in the country. “The booklet is a reflection of the resolve of the Government, under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modi, to make the defence sector stronger and more efficient,” he said. The Raksha Mantri expressed confidence that the reforms undertaken by MoD will make India a global powerhouse in the defence sector in the times to come.

20 REFORMS IN 2020

Chief of Defence Staff & Department of Military Affairs

The appointment of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creation of Department of Military Affairs (DMA) were among the major decisions taken by the Government. The post of CDS was created to increase efficiency & coordination among the Armed Forces and reduce duplication, while DMA was established to ensure improved civil-military integration. General Bipin Rawat was appointed as the first CDS who also fulfils the responsibilities of Secretary, DMA.

AATMANIRBHARTA IN DEFENCE

To promote ‘Make in India’ in defence sector, a list of 101 defence items was notified in August 2020, while Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 was unveiled in September 2020. Rs 52,000 crore budget was earmarked for indigenously made defence equipment in 2020-21. Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was approved in May 2020 for greater efficiency and productivity. There was an unprecedented push towards new technology developments within India. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) developed a ventilator in record time to meet Covid-19 requirements in May 2020.In November 2020, Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile, indigenously designed & developed DRDO, hit bullseye at medium range and medium height, while indigenously built Pinaka rocket system cleared test of 45-60 km range.

INCREASED DEFENCE EXPORTS

The increased partnership with the private sector has led to a substantial rise in defence exports. The value of total defence exports rose from Rs 1,941 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,116 crore in 2019-20. Also, for the first time, India figured in the list of defence equipment exporting nations, as the exports expanded to more than 84 countries.

MODERNISATION & INCREASED TRANSPARENCY IN DEFENCE ACQUISITION

In highest-ever thrust towards modernisation in last 10 years, there was 10 per cent budget increase in 2020-21 over the previous year. Policy reforms for increased transparency included launch of new Defence Acquisition Procedure in September 2020 and revision of DRDO Procurement Manual in October 2020. To encourage start-ups, a provision was introduced for procurement as Buy Indian-IDDM, while leasing for non-mission critical requirements was introduced for the first time.

DEFENCE ACQUISITIONS

First five Rafale fighter aircraft arrived in India in July 2020 and several more since then, adding firepower to the arsenal of the Indian Air Force. Despite the COVID-19 challenge, the aircraft were delivered timely and inducted into IAF.

REFORMING DEFENCE R&D

To promote innovation by young minds, five Young Scientists Laboratories of DRDO were launched in 2020 in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. DRDO has joined hands with the private sector in design & development and identified 108 Systems & Subsystems for the industry to design, develop and manufacture.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

For the first time, several organisations of Ministry of Defence went digital. Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA) started online Pre-Delivery inspection in May 2020 to address security threats, while Armed Forces Tribunal began digital hearing for the first time in August 2020. Defence Estates, Canteen Stores Department, services in Cantonment, MoD Pension and National Cadet Corps (NCC) also went online providing faster and transparent services.

STRENGTHENING BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE

Reforms of processes and workflows within Border Roads Organisation (BRO) enabled it to achieve targets ahead of schedule, in some instances. World’s longest Atal tunnel above 10,000 feet, at Rohtang on the Leh-Manali Highway was inaugurated by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in October 2020. It provides all weather connectivity to the northern borders. Zojila pass, situated on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, was opened almost a month ahead of schedule in April 2020.

STREE SHAKTI IN ARMED FORCES

In 2020, Ministry of Defence took some historic decisions to increase participation of women in the Armed Forces. Ten streams of Indian Army were opened for giving Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission (SSC) Women officers, while women pilots of Indian Navy were operationalised for the first time. All Sainik Schools were thrown open for girl students from academic session 2020-21.

REFORMS IN NCC

Expanding the reach of NCC to remote locations was a major announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day on August 15, 2020. More than 1,075 schools/colleges in border and coastal areas were identified and the enrolment began in November 2020. In another decision, it was decided to give preference to NCC cadets in employment in Central Armed Police Forces from May 2020. Youth Exchange Programme Allowance for NCC cadets was increased from Rs 100 per day to Rs 750 and the number of countries was increased from 10 to 15.

AID TO CIVIL ADMINISTRATION DURING COVID-19

Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces have mobilised resources to aid the civil administration in fight against COVID-19. Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) provided all emergency support to tide over the situation. They have mobilised doctors, health professionals and set up Quarantine facilities at several locations across the country. DRDO has set up several hospitals to treat COVID patients across the states, passed on technology expertise to manufacture ventilators, oxygen plants, medicines, test kits and PPE kits to private sector for mass production.

HELP BEYOND BOUNDARIES

The Armed Forces extended a helping hand to the countries in distress. Indian Navy mounted eight relief missions during 2020-21. Besides evacuating stranded Indians from Iran, Sri Lanka and Maldives under Vande Bharat Mission, Indian Naval ships provided Covid-19 medical relief, including medicines and doctors, to five countries. INS Airavat provided 270 MT food aid to Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea struck by natural calamities. The Indian Coast Guard led the rescue operation to save Sri Lanka coast of its biggest oil spill. Indian Air Force carried out over 800 relief missions during 2020-21.

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INDIAN NAVY GETS NEW OPERATIONS CHIEF

Ashish Singh

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Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar has assumed charge as Director General Naval Operations. An alumnus of the National Defense Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy in Jan 1987. He is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Naval War College, Karanja, and Naval Command College, Newport, Rhode Island, USA. The Flag Officer is a specialist in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and has served on frontline warships of the Navy as ASW Officer and later as the Executive Officer and Principal Warfare Officer of Guided Destroyer INS Mysore. He has commanded the missile corvette INS Kora, the missile frigate INS Shivalik and the aircraft carrier INS Viraat. He has held important staff appointments in IHQ MoD (Navy) in the Directorate of Staff Requirements, Directorate of Personnel, and the Directorate of Net-Centric Operations.

On promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral in Feb 2016, he was appointed as the Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Int – A) at HQ IDS, New Delhi, and subsequently as the Chief Staff Officer (Operations) in Headquarters, Western Naval Command, Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area and Flag Officer Sea Training.Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar is a recipient of the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service.

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ADVANCED LIGHT HELICOPTERS INDUCTED AT INS DEGA

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The induction ceremony of ‘322 Dega Flight’ was held in the presence of Vice Adm Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command (ENC) with three indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) MK III helicopters flying into Naval Air Station, INS Dega earlier this week. With the induction of these Maritime Reconnaissance and Coastal Security (MRCS) helicopters, the ENC got a major boost towards enhancing the capabilities of the force, in pursuit of the maritime interests of the nation. These helicopters, built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, are state-of-the-art flying machines and constitute a major step in our quest for “Atma Nirbhar Bharat”.

ALH MK III helicopters feature an array of systems previously seen only on heavier, multi-role helicopters of the Indian Navy. These helicopters are fitted with modern surveillance radar and electro-optical equipment, which enable them to undertake the role of maritime reconnaissance in addition to providing long-range Search and Rescue, both by day and night. In addition to special operations capabilities, ALH MK III is also fitted with a heavy machine gun to undertake constabulary missions. A removable Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) is also fitted on ALH MK III helicopters to airlift critically ill patients. The helicopter also has a host of advanced avionics, making it truly an all-weather aircraft. The flight is being led by Cdr SS Dash as the first flight commander who is an experienced ALH Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) with extensive operational experience.

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INDIAN AND THAI NAVIES CARRYING OUT 31ST COORDINATED PATROL

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NEW DELHI: The 31st edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (Indo-Thai CORPAT) between the Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy is being conducted from 9th to 11th June. Indian Naval Ship (INS) Saryu, an indigenously built Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel and His Majesty’s Thailand Ship (HTMS) Krabi, an Offshore Patrol Vessel, along with Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both navies are participating in the CORPAT.

Towards reinforcing maritime links between the two countries and with an aim of keeping this vital part of the Indian Ocean safe and secure for international trade, the two navies have been undertaking CORPAT bi-annually along their International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) since 2005. CORPAT builds up understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitates institution of measures to prevent and suppress unlawful activities like Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery and piracy. It further helps enhance the operational synergy by exchange of information for prevention of smuggling, illegal immigration and for conduct of SAR operations at sea.

As part of Government of India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region towards enhancing regional maritime security. This has been through bilateral and multilateral exercises, Coordinated Patrols, Joint EEZ Surveillance, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. The Indian Navy and Royal Thai Navy have especially enjoyed a close and friendly relationship covering a wide spectrum of activities and interactions, which have strengthened over the years. The 31st Indo-Thai CORPAT will contribute towards Indian Navy’s efforts to consolidate inter-operability and forge strong bonds of friendship with Royal Thai Navy.

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